Since its inception, each month LHCP has honored a military service member who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. Every box which is shipped from LHCP is labeled with information about the Honoree. The monthly Honoree’s story is attached to the box so others can read about those who have sacrificed their lives for our freedom. This month’s Honoree is Command Sgt. Maj. Marilyn L. Gabbard.
By Henry C. Jackson
The Associated Press
JOHNSTON, Iowa — The first woman promoted to the rank of command sergeant major in the Iowa Army National Guard was among those killed when a Black Hawk helicopter crashed in Iraq, guard officials said Jan. 24. Command Sgt. Maj. Marilyn L. Gabbard, 46, of Polk City, was a passenger on the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter when it crashed Jan. 20 northeast of Baghdad, officials said. She was the first woman in the history of the Iowa National Guard to be killed in combat, Iowa National Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Greg Hapgood said. Gabbard was 19th Iowa National Guard member and the 50th service member with Iowa ties to be killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Gabbard was born in 1960 in Boone and graduated from Boone High School in 1979. She served in the National Guard for 27 years, starting in 1979, ascending to the rank of sergeant major. In her most recent post, Gabbard served as state operations sergeant major at the Iowa National Guard’s Joint Forces Headquarters in Johnston. Gabbard’s long tenure with the Iowa National Guard made the pain from her loss acute, Hapgood said. “She touched so many people in so many different areas of our organization,” he said. As the first woman promoted to her rank, Gabbard was in a position to serve as a role model to other woman soldiers in particular, Hapgood said, but Gabbard never saw herself as a trail blazer, just a soldier and a leader. “She didn’t take it as a burden,” Hapgood said. “She embraced the fact that she had gone places other people hadn’t gone before. I think she relished having soldiers look up to her.”
Gabbard leaves behind her husband, Edward Gabbard; daughter, Melissa Danielson; mother, Mary Van Cannon; brothers, Mark and Mike Van Cannon; sister, Marla Noren; two grandchildren, five stepdaughters and a stepson.
JOHNSTON, Iowa (AP) In the tight-knit headquarters of the Iowa National Guard in Johnston, Command Sgt. Maj. Marilyn L. Gabbard was known for her near perpetual smile. “She was always smiling,” her friend, Sgt. Maj. Renee Blodgett, said Wednesday. “And she always had a smile to give.” With the smile came a drive and determination, colleagues said. Gabbard enlisted with the Iowa National Guard in 1979, the same year she graduated from Boone High School, and spent the next 27 years in the Guard, starting as a personnel management specialist and earning a reputation as an adept problem solver. She was the first woman in the Iowa Guard to attain the rank of command sergeant major. “She was a person who did not say ‘no,'” said Lt. Col. Greg Hapgood. “She was the person who, if you had a project that was difficult and you weren’t sure who to give it to, she was the person you would give it to.”
Gabbard was killed Saturday in a Black Hawk helicopter crash northeast of Baghdad, officials said. She was 46. She is believed to be the first woman in the history of the Iowa National Guard to be killed in combat. Military officials said Gabbard’s helicopter might have been shot down, and an investigation is ongoing. She was one of 12 National Guard members from seven states and the U.S. Virgin Islands killed in the crash. Gabbard was the 50th Iowan _ and the 19th member of the Iowa National Guard _ to die while training for or serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Gabbard lived in Polk City with her husband, Edward. She was serving her first deployment in Iraq, leaving Iowa on Dec. 16 to serve as a non-commissioned officer in charge of the National Guard Affairs Team in Baghdad. Gabbard welcomed the challenge, Blodgett said, in part because she took such pride in training her fellow soldiers. “She loved the National Guard. She loved people. She was always looking out for others,” she said. Gabbard was a role model for women, said Blodgett, who credits her steady climb in the Iowa National Guard for easing the way for other women to win promotions.
Blodgett was one of about 50 people who packed into an auditorium at Joint Forces Headquarters in Johnston for a press conference held to announce Gabbard’s death. Most at the Guard’s headquarters already knew of Gabbard’s death when they filed into the room, filling in seats and standing at the back of the auditorium. “In some ways this was closure,” Hapgood said. “But it’s also causing people to call upon their memories of Marilyn.” Although Hapgood agreed Gabbard was a role model for women, he said it would be a mistake to let her gender classify her, or her influence. “She didn’t take it as a burden,” he said of her gender. “She embraced the fact that she had gone places other people hadn’t gone before. I think she relished having soldiers look up to her.”
Gabbard leaves behind her husband, Edward Gabbard; daughter, Melissa Danielson; mother, Mary Van Cannon; brothers, Mark and Mike Van Cannon; sister, Marla Noren; two grandchildren; five step daughters; and a stepson.